If a tree falls in the forest....

When the new Auditor General released a scathing report on the governments removal of TFL's on the Island and litteraly giving the land to Westen Forest Products with no compensation for those Public lands to the public, it got me to thinking of another time in this province. Then BC Mary reminded me about the same time. So I dug up a little info on how a previous scandal was handled.

Following is from a preview of a book called The Sommers Scandal by Ian Macdonald and Betty O'Keefe.

Forests and scandals are perennial subjects of B.C. politics, and the controversy surrounding Robert Sommers, the provincial Lands, Forests, and Mines minister in 1955, combined the two. Sommers, a prominent figure in W.A.C. Bennett's Social Credit cabinet, was accused of taking bribes in exchange for granting tree farm licenses.

Sommers was a choirboy in the Wacky Bennett government in the 50's for those who are too young to remember, that was convicted of receiving bribes to allowing certain lands cutting rights for BCFP ( British Columbia Forest Products).

After moving from Rossland to Victoria, Sommers was cash-strapped. He accepted loans from a small sawmill operator named Wick Gray, who had business ties to a high-powered forest consulting firm owned by Charlie Schultz. Schultz also represented BCFP. Thousands of dollars passed from Schultz to Gray to Sommers and $600 worth of carpet also found its way onto Sommers’ floor boards.
W.A.C. Bennett was in full expansion mode at this time — laying blacktop, rail lines and dams across the hinterlands to cement his support. A new pulp mill and hundreds of jobs from BCFP would provide yet another ribbon-cutting ceremony, another opportunity to flash his famous smile. BCFP’s request for cutting rights on Vancouver Island got a thumbs up from the premier.

Gordon Gibson, [ that's Gibson Senior] Liberal MLA and millionaire logger sniffed the rumours, blowing the whistle in the legislature in February of 1955. The blustery ‘Bull Of The Woods’ accused the government of fraud. “I firmly believe that money talks and has talked,” he said.

But old Wacky knew how to handle things and he basically hung his minister out to dry. Still sounding familiar?

There was plenty of government foot dragging, lawsuits, police investigations, and a subsequent trial. [ sound familiar?] Snip......

Five years after the allegations of impropriety had surfaced, Sommers and Gray were found guilty of bribery and conspiracy, while BCFP and consultant Charlie Schultz got off unscathed. [more familiarities in the present day Railway scandal] [snip.....]

And then this from Chad Skelton
Old-growth logging plan sparks war-in-woods threat

Chad SkeltonVancouver SunWednesday, July 23, 2008

Trees felled by Coulson Forest Products in Hesquiat Point Creek in preparation for a logging road into the area.

Environmentalists are concerned because if logging goes ahead in Hesquiat Point Creek, it will mark the first time a "pristine" vallley of old-growth forest has been logged since 1991.B.C. could see a return to protests and blockades in world-renowned Clayoquot Sound as a forestry company prepares to log an old-growth forest in the Hesquiat Point Creek watershed -- the first time a company has begun logging in such a "pristine" valley in nearly 20 years.And this time, first nations and environmentalists -- allies in the 1993 protests -- are on opposite sides.[Snip...]

In response to environmentalists' concerns, the companies temporarily halted construction of the logging road in May, although only after they felled a stand of trees in the valley 400 metres long and 20 metres wide.But Ken Matthews, forestry manager for Coulson, said while the company and first nations are willing to talk to environmentalists, they plan eventually to move into untouched valleys."In the long term, the intention ... is to log into the undeveloped watersheds," said Matthews[snip...]

In 1993, first nations and environmentalists stood shoulder to shoulder on the barricades in protest against forestry giant MacMillan Bloedel.Since then, MacMillan Bloedel and Interfor have sold off their licences in Clayoquot to two small companies -- MaMook and Iisaak -- owned by five financially struggling first nations in the area: the Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ucluelet and Toquaht."It's quite different than the situation that was there in the early 1990s, when you had outsiders logging and very little return going to first nations," [snip...]

Boy did Gordon Gibson Senior have it right 53 years ago when he said "money talks". So I wonder in 50 years what there will be left for the first nations to Steward?

.......does anybody hear?

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